Detectives have arrested two men they believe to part of a larger organized crime group using devices to skim private information from people through ATM machines.

Sacramento County sheriff’s investigators believe Luis Jose Ruiz-Gainza, 43, and Ricardo Gabriele-Plage, 36, both of Venezuela are part of a crime syndication comprised mainly of Venezuelan nationals, who are traveling to the United States to place the skimming devices on ATM machines.

Back in April, sheriff’s detectives started collecting reports of several people claiming to be victims of identity theft, who had also had money withdrawn from their bank accounts, investigators said.

An investigation was launched, leading detectives to the discovery of skimming devices located as several bank ATM machines throughout the Sacramento region, sheriff’s officials said. Detectives said a high definition camera would also be placed above the key pad of the ATM underneath an indiscreet cover, which recorded customers entering their personal information.

One of the high definition cameras used to record customers entering their personal information at ATMs throughout the Sacramento region.
A plate used as a discreet cover for a high definition camera placed above key pads at several ATMs throughout the Sacramento region.

It’s unclear how detectives managed to connect the discovery of the suspicious equipment with the arrest of Ruiz-Gainza and Gabriele-Plage; however, sheriff’s officials did note the suspects entered the U.S. legally with passports via Mexico.

The crimes that happened in April were over a two- to three-day period, in which time approximately 450 debit and credit cards were compromised, detectives said. Approximately $20,000 were withdrawn through victims’ bank accounts.

Sheriff’s officials recommend customers sign up for activity notifications with their banks and credit cards to better track their activity.

Victims can also submit online reports to detectives by clicking here.